Sacrilege though it may be to fellow comic aficionados, facts are still facts: As a character, Wolverine kind of sucks. Moody and hairy, the murder-happy brute is all pouting and brooding; he’s like a stabbier Morrissey. Logan is the R-rated, uber-super-duper-serious mope-fest Wolverine fans have longed to see on the big screen, punctuating long weepy looks from Hugh Jackman with curse words and decapitations. Some of it works, but other parts betray the film’s somewhat preposterous self-importance with abject silliness. In fact, the final hour contains so many unintentionally laughable beats, anyone claiming Logan’s greatness has to be wearing Wolverine Underoos.
Jackman is back as James “Logan” Howlett, aka Wolverine, for a record 7,937th time. Patrick Stewart also returns as Professor Xavier, who now curses like a Reddit user exposed to substantive feminism. The year is 2029, and Professor X has some kind of dementia, which is less than ideal for the world’s most powerful psychic. Logan keeps him in a hideout south of the border, feeding him nonspecified “brain be better” pills, until a woman shows up and asks Logan to protect a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) on a journey to North Dakota. To be fair, North Dakota is terrifying.
Logan tries to refuse but then remembers this is a movie about his legacy and that he is required to groan and slouch towards redemption. Much like the movie Shane, a man must overcome the dark deeds of his past in order to leave something good behind. You know the movie is inspired by Shane because writer/director James Mangold actually has the characters watch the movie Shane while Professor X explains the importance of Shane before someone later extensively quotes Shane. This would be like if someone in Stranger Things stopped to read a chapter of a Stephen King book aloud while Winona Ryder talked about how it’s just like what’s happening to them.
Logan is a film at unresolvable war with itself. Mangold’s pensive character study is trapped inside a movie that necessitates bonkers action sequences, which then necessitates a physical villain and not merely a “man vs. himself” trope. The solution to that need is hilariously literal and is only outpaced in stupidity by the fake urgency of Logan protecting a horde of kids who could easily whup his ass. Logan cries a lot though. Because he’s all sensitive and shit. This apparently equates to “the best performance in a superhero movie ever,” according to people who likely also appreciate the acting in erectile dysfunction commercials.
Watching Logan’s claws disembowel slack-jawed dimwits and seeing Laura turn into a bladed Tasmanian devil is gleeful, bloody fun that interrupts hours of over-emoting. Ultimately, this is just more of the same, tired ode to the burden of hyper-masculinity and is nowhere near the tragic dirge Mangold believed himself to be composing. If this really is Jackman riding Wolverine off into the sunset, I kind of feel sorry for the sunset.
This review previously appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Nebraska.
One and a half stars.